The Beginners Guide To Skateboarding

The Beginners Guide To

So you’ve seen skateboarders tearing through your town centre, on a TV advert or your mate has just got a board and won’t stop talking about how he can ollie? Sound familiar? Skateboarding has been a creative force and sport for the past 40 years, birthed by surfing making its way to our shores in the mid-1970s. What started out as surfing’s landlubber cousin has slowly become a sport in its own right. Skateboarding is now packed with history, creativity and culture. Skateboarders are also of all ages, many pros over 40, and some not even aged in double digits yet, so it’s very much a sport for all ages.

Skateboarding can be done anywhere, and everywhere but typically when learning, you should find yourself a flat smooth piece of concrete or head to the local skatepark don’t forget your pads too. Over four decades, many people have tried to ‘reinvent the wheel’ when it comes to skateboarding. Those gimmicks tend to pass and the basic setup remains very much the same, with minor tweaks over the years.

Skateboard Wheels

Skateboarding wheels vary in both hardness and size. Harder wheels tend to be favoured by street riders as they won’t wear down as easily through rough street surfaces and powerslides, and park riders tend to prefer softer wheels. Size wise, they’re pretty standard unless you’re a longboarder or want to be doing more cruiser based riding.

Slick Willie’s Recommend: Bones wheels, Ricta wheels and Spitfire wheels.

Skateboard Bearings

There are many skateboard bearings out there, some making quite radical claims. In our decades of skating experience we advise that there are three things to bear in mind. One is that your bearings are at least semi sealed to stop pesky bits of dirt from making their way inside and causing faster wear. Two is that you look after your bearings by avoiding rain and gritty surfaces where possible. If you live in the UK then the chances are whenever and wherever you skate there will be a puddle or ten, and sealed bearings will help them stand a chance at surviving a little while. Third is you get what you pay for, if you want a set of top end bearings that will last a good amount of time then consider digging deep and buying Bones bearings. They are indisputably the kings of the bearing world, and for good reason.ABEC rating is something else we are often asked about. Bearings are ABEC rated from 9 down to 1 (odd numbers only). ABEC rating defines how fast the bearing spins on a factory machine (9 fastest, 1 slowest). Some companies though don’t bother with abec ratings and just use the phrase “skate rated” this is because bearings can vary so much in quality and one companies “abec 9” could perform vastly different from another’s that claim the same rating.Possibly the most intricate part of the skateboard. If you’re a total newb to skateboarding, this is the metal part that attaches the wheels the deck. It comprises of the truck, baseplate, kingpin and cushions.

Skateboard Trucks

The trucks vary in width. Smaller / shorter trucks give you a faster and tighter turning circle, and wider / longer trucks give you more control. The kingpin holds the truck onto the baseplate, which houses the truck on the deck. The kingpin can be tightened and loosened depending on what type of ride you want. Generally a looser kingpin means a less controlled, but more flexible and responsive turn, and a tighter kingpin does the opposite.

Cushions (bushings) are the rubber bit that sits between the kingpin and truck, allowing you to tighten and loosen without any locking. These also come in softer and harder variations that enhance the stable or responsive ride, depending on your preference. If you’re a beginner get that kingpin super tight for a controlled skate and just get used to pumping around and using your body.

Slick Willie’s Recommend: Bones bearings and Bronson bearings for advanced/intermediate and Spitfire bearings for beginners.

Skateboard Decks

Decks vary in width, press, number of ply layers and shape. As well as graphic of course. Besides choosing the raddest graphic you’ll want the right sort of board spec for your skating.

Size – Wider boards tend to be the choice of pool / bowl skaters, old school heroes and filmers. They will give you a wider, more controllable surface and are typically 8.5-inch+. Boards 7.75-8.25” are the pick of most skaters, ideal for street and park.

Ply – Typical decks are 7-9 ply Canadian Maple. Decks that may look like proper skateboards but are £10 from Argos are typically not 7-9 ply Canadian Maple. Canadian Maple is the most traditional tried and tested skateboard material over the years, although bamboo has come into play a little, Canadian Maple is still generally the choice of most skaters.

The number of ply means how many different layers of plywood have been piled up and cut out to create your skate deck. You can normally visually tell by looking at your deck side on and counting the layers you see. Each of these layers have been glued together. It’s this process, along with the pressing and shape, that help create the ‘pop’ your board has.

Press – Pressing is the process that happens to those 7-9 layers of plywood in the factory. Once the layers have glue between them all, they will be either hot or cold pressed. Cold pressed boards take longer to set and are generally better performing in terms of responsiveness, pop and flex.

Shape – Some decks are set a little deeper than others, with slightly more pronounced noses and kicktails. These are more suitable for carving and are closer to most longboard designs, rather than traditional skateboards.

Slick Willie’s Recommend: Primitive decks, Jart Decks, Girl decks & Chocolate decks.

What Are The Different Skating Styles?


Skatepark is the most common place for skateboarding. Skateparks are typically designed with all street sports in mind. Skateparks tend to feature a layout with ramps / bankings around the outside and grindboxes / ledges / rails in the middle. This layout gives you something to drop-in on to gain speed, then an obstacle to perform a trick on or over.Skateparks have a strong etiquette that all users are expected to adhere towards, regardless of what they’re riding (skates, board, scooter or bike). There are some fairly basic rules around this that we’ll outline for you. Stick to these and you’ll have a blast.

1. No Snaking – When someone else is using something that you want to skate, wait your turn.

2. Keep your deck off the coping – See the metal pole on the top of some of the ramps? Keep your deck off that, as people will be sliding along it or getting mad as your kicktail hogs it while they’re trying to skate or ride it.

3. Don’t Ramp Hog
– Nobody likes a ramp hog, so please try not to skate non-stop for twenty minutes on a ramp while everyone has to wait their turn.

4. Watch Where You’re Going – This is a big one. Be aware of the lines people are using in the park, as you don’t want to ride up a quarter pipe to be greeted with a face full of BMX.


Vert riding is fairly niche in the UK, mainly as there aren’t many skateparks that feature massive half pipes these days, but it’s still very cool. It’s was naughties skateboarding and Tony Hawk landing a 900 on vert that got many skaters into the sport.Vert involves a lot of patience, balls of steel and massive knee pads. You have to have mastered more than the basics before you can even start riding vert. dropping in is an achievement in itself. If you feel pretty comfortable on your board, and you feel like having a go, grab those knee pads and helmet and start from the bottom, pumping. Just keep pumping higher and higher, with 180 kickturns, pulling your knees closer to your chest as the transition gets steeper, and near-vertical. This will help you learn how to ride the ramp pre-dropping in. That said, don’t hog it for half an hour (see etiquette section above).


Street skating is the reason councils all over the country are building street plazas instead of skateparks. Street skating at its core involves skaters doing tricks and cruising around through the streets. This is obviously extremely dangerous, hence councils building plazas. It tends to give skaters more options to be creative, more quirks in spots, and more unpredictability, hence the appeal.


Flatland skateboarding isn’t too common, and Rodney Mullen is the master of it.

It involves skaters on a flat surface starting in a standing on deck position then ollie-ing and finger flipping their deck around into various stalls and manuals. It’s roots are in the early days of skateboarding, making it quite an old school niche.

Skateboard Protection

As with all street sports we highly recommend protective gear. Both Triple 8 and Rekd offer quality helmets that meet the European protection standards for bikes, boards, scooters, and similar sports. Protec have more comfortable shapes where your head tends to sit deep inside the helmet and SFR offer great value for money, while not compromising on quality. Both brands offer lids in numerous colours and styles.

As with any extreme sport, you’re bound to fall and get a few scrapes along the way, skateboarding is no different. We recommend knee and elbow pads too, which will help absorb heavy impact and allow you to slide out of tricks, hardshell pads doing the former and gaskets, the latter. Both knee and elbow pads come in various sizes. Oversized pads are great for riders who will be riding lots of big quarter pipes or even half pipes, whereas smaller pads, tucked under the jeans tend to be the preference of the street rider, although bear in mind that this will cause you to rip through your new jeans at some point! Gaskets are the more comfortable option allowing you to slide out of tricks, particularly on street, but hardshell pads will always be better for taking hard impact, reducing permanent damage to those elbow and knee joints.

Slick Willie’s Recommend: Triple 8 helmets and Rekd helmets